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What Is Halal Fish?

By Richard Chippers
Updated May 16, 2024
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"Halal" is a term in Islamic law that refers to any object or an action that it is allowed to use or take part in, so halal fish would refer to any fish that is permitted to be eaten. This law comes from the Islamic religious text, the Qur'an. Any type of fish with scales is considered to be halal and therefore permitted. Halal fish might come from either saltwater or freshwater.

There are several places in the Qur'an where seafood and fish are mentioned. In Al-Ma-ida, it talks of water-game, a reference to food found in the oceans, and An-Nahl refers to people who are associated with the sea being able to take produce from the water. Then in Fatir, both freshwater and seawater are mentioned, along with ruling that people are allowed to eat meat from both.

Halal fish must be caught when it still is alive. If the fish is found dead, it falls under the Islamic law prohibiting the consumption of animals that were found dead and is therefore prohibited. This refers only to the catching of the fish. Halal fish can be bought already cooked or processed fish, but adding certain ingredients or flavorings would make the whole thing forbidden. Anyone who is trying to purchase halal fish should check the ingredients of the fish against a list of halal ingredients to determine whether the fish can be eaten under Islamic law.

The Qur’an teaches that all animals should be treated with respect and should be well cared for. When the animal is killed, it should be subject to the minimum amount of pain and suffering. To be halal, the blood must be drained from the animal, because Muslims are prohibited from consuming animal blood. Any fish must also be subject to these rules for it to be considered halal fish. A practicing Muslim must follow this guidance strictly, and if there is any doubt about whether the fish is halal, it must be avoided.

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Discussion Comments
By anon981634 — On Dec 13, 2014

I have another question regarding the subject of halal and fish. To my understanding, we cannot consume an animal if it had suffered prior. If fish are automatically halal and permitted to consume, why is that? Don't they suffer when they're out in the open struggling to breathe? It's just a question a friend of mine asked and I didn't really know how to answer.

By Wisedly33 — On Sep 08, 2014

@Scrbblechick -- According to my research, shellfish is kind of open to debate as to whether it's halal or not. You're right that it's not kosher at all, ever, but some Muslims, Shi-ites among them, think eating shrimp or prawns is OK.

I'm not sure why this is so, other than it's not specifically forbidden in the Qu'ran, as far as I could tell. The Bible is pretty specific about what's kosher and what isn't. It says only fish with "scales and fins" can be eaten. That rules out shellfish pretty definitively. But I'm not sure if the Qu'ran ever gets that specific.

By Scrbblchick — On Sep 07, 2014

So, is shellfish halal? I know it isn't Kosher, because it doesn't have scales and fins. Do the Muslims follow the same practice? I know halal and Kosher have some similarities.

I don't have any Muslim friends I could ask about this. I know they don't eat pork, but I do wonder about shellfish, since it is fairly common in Mediterranean diets that aren't halal. It would seem to be a ready source of protein, if it's not prohibited by their religious beliefs.

Can anyone tell me about shellfish and whether it is halal or not? I would like to know.

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